Weather wise, it has been a year of extremes, starting on a poor note when the ‘Beast from the East’ struck in February and March, whilst the early Easter also suffered some atrocious weather. This coincided with the period when the market typically gathers momentum and had negative ramifications, effectively delaying the season. High rainfall totals also led to a number of holiday parks opening later than usual. However, during late spring, the weather experienced an amazing turnaround, culminating in the hottest summer since 1976. Whilst this created a sales recovery, it was too late for the market to catch up with 2017.
The weather was only one contributor towards suppressed sales. As expected, the political landscape remained turbulent during 2018. With March 2019 fast approaching, economic uncertainty recently intensified. There is no doubt this created further consumer insecurities and whilst the market remained buoyant following the Brexit vote in 2016, the political landscape has taken its toll during 2018. Additionally, following two strong seasons, the market has also naturally quietened.
The towing laws and the increasing cost of new vans are potentially hindering younger families from entering the market with some younger customers looking at purchasing used motorhomes as an alternative to touring caravans. Dealers backed up this view, explaining that most recent newcomers to the touring caravan market are over 50 years of age.
Overall mixed feedback from dealers and subscribers who kindly responded to Glass’s quarterly touring caravan trade survey suggests the market failed to meet expectations. In terms of orders, most did report that order take during the last quarter was broadly in line with the same period in 2017, suggesting the 2019 season will start in a similar vein to the 2018 season. There is evidence of some regional variability with some respondents having a stronger start to the season, other dealers holding the view it has been broadly in line, and an equal amount have not done so well. Whilst some dealers continue to sell through their 2018 carry over stock.
Slower new sales resulted in higher stock levels in dealer networks this year, leading to distress selling. Despite this, there were still large amounts of unsold 2018 models carried over into the new season. However, dealers have been far more cautious for 2019 with most ordering less from manufacturers. As a result, there should be less of an issue with carry over stock at the end of this season.
In terms of what has sold well this year, 8- foot wide vans have been popular with the Swift Super Sprite in particular offering great value for money. Transverse island beds remain in favour, particularly the centre washroom, end bedroom layout.
The NEC show took place between the 16th and 21st October. According to the National Caravan Council (NCC), more than 96,000 visitors attended. However, feedback from manufacturers and dealers indicated that the show was quieter than 2017 and in view of the political landscape; the consensus was that 2019 is likely to be another tough year and very similar to 2018 with little growth expected.
Despite this, displays remained as impressive as ever with plenty to keep the trade and public interested. Moving forward, there is the Caravan and Motorhome show at Manchester’s Event City, taking place from the 17th to 20th January and the camping caravan and motorhome show from 19th to 24th February at the NEC in Birmingham. There will also be various local events around the country, which will help maintain interest and contribute significantly towards sales volumes.
Despite mixed feedback from dealer visits and survey responses, the majority suggested sales and demand were broadly in line or down through the last quarter, compared to the same period last year. However, while economic uncertainty will have less of a bearing on the used market; similar issues with towing laws are hindering younger families from purchasing used tourers. A number of respondents have received more offers to buy unwanted units from the public this year, suggesting increased numbers of consumers are exiting the market.
Specification in the used market is key, with the popularity of transverse island beds continuing, and quality family units clearing dealer forecourts quickly. Vans in the cheaper £4-7,000 category are also popular, signifying increasingly cautious spending.
According to latest figures released by the National Caravan Council, production of units intended for UK distribution were 20.9% down in September, compared to 2017. The moving annual total [MAT] of production was 4.7% down, with 21,692 units produced by the end of September 2018. Apart from April and July, production in all other months this year has been behind last year. Factory sales also saw a decline in September of 16.3%, with the MAT 4.5% behind that of last year. As with production, only April and July recorded growth this year.
Key Points – New
- Demand for 2-berth broadly in line or lower than last year
- 4-berth and twin axle units fared best with demand similar to last year
- Demand for 5 and 6-berth family units broadly in line
- Majority of dealers offering equal or higher discounts than last year
- Margin retention overall weaker than the same period in 2017
- Customer finance penetration similar to last year with majority of take up being 10-year HP deals, with only small amounts of PCP
- Majority of dealer have stronger stock levels compared this year
Key Points – Used
- Demand feedback variable suggesting it was broadly the same or a slightly down on last year
- 2-berths best performing used choice.
- Demand for all other berths including twin axles broadly the same as last year
- Stock availability more plentiful this year
- Greater number of late 2016/17 stock in the market compared to this time last year
- Dealers own stock levels said to be broadly in line with last year
2019 is almost certainly going to be another tough season in view of the ongoing turbulent political landscape as Brexit nears. Whilst some dealers are having a stronger start to the new season, evidence from a quieter NEC show in October suggests a similar year is likely, albeit without the same level of discounting and stock issues that plagued 2018.
It is a similar story with the used market, which is also likely to be tough, albeit with potentially less of a hindrance from the political landscape due the more affordable nature of the product. However, whether the market can experience growth is uncertain.
For this edition, taking into account the time of year, values are held across the board, except where trade feedback or evidence from the market place indicates models requiring specific adjustments.
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